We’ve caught up with Oliver Gray, the founder of EnergiseYou, who is often referred to as one of the UK’s leading experts in energy and performance, as well as author of Energise You: The Ultimate Health and Energy Plan. We’ve asked him a few questions about the importance of meditation in daily life. He also helped us bust some common misconceptions about the practice and offered some practical advice on how to fit meditation into a busy schedule.
Vitality: How meditation can improve your health and productivity?
Oliver Gray: Research shows the benefits of meditation include: increased energy, improved happiness, better sleep. Meditating is also excellent for problem solving and creative thinking, it aids clear thinking, lowers blood pressure, boosts the immune system, reduces negative emotions such as excess pressure, anxiety, fear and anger. All of these benefits lead to better health and energy plus make you more productive at work.
Vitality: According to PsychologyToday an increasing number of doctors are prescribing meditation to their patients in the US as well as in the UK (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy) – is this a trend that is likely to become the norm, in your view?
Oliver Gray: Most definitely, the two key reasons being:
1. There is so much research showing the benefits of daily meditation for improving health and solving and preventing health issues;
2. Many health issues that meditation helps are on the increase such as mental health issues, sleep problems, and stress and meditation is a great drug free way to solve them.
Vitality: What are the top 5 myths and misconceptions about meditation?
Oliver Gray: 1. You have to go to a meditation class to meditate. You don’t, all you need is 5-10 minutes to yourself ideally in a quiet place;
2. You have to be able to clear your mind of all thoughts and meditate like a Buddhist monk to get the benefits from meditation. You don’t, the key thing with meditation is whatever experience you have when you meditate, you will be getting some benefit;
3. You have to meditate for 20 minutes or longer to get the benefits. Yes, 20 minutes at the start and the end of your day is great, but you can still get great benefits from just 5 minutes a day;
4. Meditation has to be done in silence. There are many different types of meditation: some are in silence and some will have music;
5. Meditation is really hard. The beauty of meditation is that it is really simple. People often assume it’s difficult and complex – but the truth is that we can all sit with our eyes closed for 5 minutes a day and just focus on our breathing.
Vitality: What are your top 5 tips to make meditation more effective for beginners?
Oliver Gray: 1. Go on a meditation course to learn a simple technique, for example TM meditation which is recognised as one of the simplest and most effective meditation techniques that can be learnt on a simple weekend course;
2. Meditate first thing in the morning after waking up, this will help you to build meditation into your routine as a consistent practice;
3. Meditate in a quiet room where you know you won’t be disturbed, this will help you to relax more;
4. Make sure you are sitting in an upright position when you meditate, this could be in a chair or on the carpet or yoga mat. Whatever you choose make sure you feel comfortable;
5. Never judge the experience of your meditation, each time you meditate you will get a different experience, this is natural and the experience you get is the experience you need on that day.
Vitality: Could you offer some practical advice to squeeze meditation into a busy schedule?
Oliver Gray: Top tip – go to bed earlier and get up earlier, this will improve the quality of your sleep plus will give you time first thing in the morning to meditate. This is an excellent start to your day, plus you will be more consistent with your meditation if you do it first thing.
Listen to your mind and body; if you get in from work feeling stressed and mentally drained this is your body’s way of telling you that you need to re-charge, therefore it’s a good idea to grab a moment just for yourself and meditate.
Vitality: How can you use breathing meditation to help to relieve stress:
Oliver Gray: Step One: Sit cross-legged or in a chair with your eyes closed
Step Two: Slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your nose, relax as you exhale
Step three: Keep your focus and attention on your breath, when a thought arises, observe the thought, then let it float away like a cloud in the sky. Keep your attention focused on your breath. Note: Start with 5-10 minutes and over time aim to build yourself up to 20 minutes.